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Guilt, persecution and atonement : moral responsibility in Loewald and Levinas


Guilt, persecution and atonement : moral responsibility in Loewald and Levinas

Aronoff, Gordon Louis (2010) Guilt, persecution and atonement : moral responsibility in Loewald and Levinas. PhD thesis, Concordia University.

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This thesis examines the question, what does it mean to be responsible for choices that we did not make? The theme of moral responsibility is traced through feminist and postmodern discourses, and through the thought of psychoanalyst Hans Loewald and philosopher Emmanuel Levinas. An examination of feminist ethics and the so-called caring perspective situates the (gendered) self within an interpersonal web of competing caring commitments. Postmodern analysis deconstructs the self and, like the feminist critique, inquires into the transpersonal, historical and institutional discourses that give rise to our experiences of interiority and individualism. This placing-in-perspective of the autonomous self undermines all moral systems that are founded upon a conception of the reason-centered "1" that conceal the influence of the realm of affect and the (so-called) irrational. The primacy of this affective realm is taken up in the developmental psychoanalytic account of Hans Loewald, who elaborates the central and ongoing role of guilt and atonement in the formation of a responsible self. Guilt and atonement are also central to the conception of subjectivity advanced by Emmanuel Levinas. Levinas's critique of the reason-centered "1" is every bit as radical as the de-centered postmodern self, and yet he posits an alternative conception that cannot but be ethical. This self is summoned to a (limitless) responsibility through proximity to the other, and this obligation is only mitigated by the presence of the third (i.e. a plurality of others). As in Loewald's account, the ego is torn asunder via an experience of trauma. However, whereas Loewald (following Freud) seeks to identify the ultimate causes of this trauma, Levinas traces (literally, as they only exist as traces) their unfolding and assigns their origins to that which is always directed away from the self and can never be formalized in a system. In reading Loewald with and against Levinas, the themes of guilt, persecution and atonement are thus identified as salient to our understanding of what it means to be morally responsible.

Divisions:Concordia University > Faculty of Arts and Science > Religions and Cultures
Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Authors:Aronoff, Gordon Louis
Pagination:x, 204 leaves ; 29 cm.
Institution:Concordia University
Degree Name:Ph. D.
Thesis Supervisor(s):Oppenheim, M
Identification Number:LE 3 C66R45P 2010 A76
ID Code:979431
Deposited By: Concordia University Library
Deposited On:09 Dec 2014 17:59
Last Modified:13 Jul 2020 20:12
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